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Eric Wheeler v. K. Aliceson

January 2, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael J. Seng United States Magistrate Judge



Plaintiff Eric Wheeler is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action filed May 25, 2012 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Compl., ECF No. 1.)

Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint on June 7, 2012 (First Am. Compl., ECF No. 7) without the Complaint having been screened by the Court. The First Amended Complaint is now before the Court for screening.

Plaintiff has declined to extend Magistrate Judge jurisdiction to all matters and for all purposes in this case. (Decline Magistrate, ECF No. 8.)


The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief

against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous, malicious," or that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1),(2). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

Section 1983 "provides a cause of action for the 'deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws' of the United States." Wilder v. Virginia Hosp. Ass'n, 496 U.S. 498, 508 (1990), quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights conferred elsewhere. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989).


A. Summary of First Amended Complaint

Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint is not a complete pleading. It is captioned as a "Memorandum of Exhibits" and appears to consist of an amended complaint cover sheet and approximately 162 pages of materials apparently intended as exhibits to the original, now superseded Complaint. The First Amended Complaint does not clearly name Defendants liable thereon and includes no factual allegations, legal claims, or relief sought.

B. Pleading Requirements Generally

To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Ketchum v. Alameda Cnty., 811 F.2d 1243, 1245 (9th Cir. 1987).

A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its face.' " Id. Facial plausibility demands more than the mere possibility that a defendant committed misconduct and, while factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id. at 667-68.

An amended complaint must be complete in itself without reference to any prior pleading. Local Rule 220. As a general rule, an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint. See Loux v. Rhay, 375 F.2d 55, 57 (9th Cir. 1967). Every pleading must be signed personally by an unrepresented party. Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(a).

Any amended pleading should be complete within itself, without reference to or attachment of another pleading, and must be signed personally by Plaintiff.

C. No Cognizable Claim Stated

The First Amended Complaint is unsigned. It does not include any discernable description of any alleged violation of any of Plaintiff's constitutional rights, and does not advise the Court of what claims Plaintiff intends to plead or the bases for them. Although the Federal Rules adopt a flexible pleading policy, a complaint must give fair notice and state the elements of the claim plainly and succinctly. Jones v. Community Redev. Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984). Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint fails to state any cognizable claim.

The Court takes note that the unscreened original Complaint, which spans 214 pages, names as Defendants the warden and individual mental health staff members at the California Substance Abuse and Treatment Facility at Corcoran State Prison ("CSATF")*fn1 on First Amendment claims of retaliation; Eighth Amendment claims of deliberate indifference to mental health needs and failure to protect from risks of confinement; Fourteenth Amendment claims of due process deprivation relating to complaints and grievances, removal from the Extended Out Patient ("EOP") mental health program, handling of confidential inmate/patient information, and rules violations; ADA claims; and state law negligence claims. (Compl. at 3, 44-47). The Complaint seeks declaratory relief, an order enjoining the foregoing federal violations, and monetary compensation. (Compl. at 46-47.

Plaintiff may have mistakenly believed he could file an amended complaint adding exhibits without re-alleging the facts of his claims. The Court will provide Plaintiff an opportunity to amend. If Plaintiff chooses to amend, he must include all relevant factual allegations in one document; references to facts alleged in preceding complaints will be disregarded.

Moreover, Plaintiff need not and should not attach exhibits. His pleadings are taken as true for purposes of screening, and so it is unnecessary to try to support claims with exhibits. The Court cannot serve as a repository for exhibits.

The following sections of this order provide legal standards applicable to what the Court believes may be Plaintiff's intended claims.

D. Personal Participation

To state a claim under § 1983, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each individually named defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). The Supreme Court has emphasized that the term "supervisory liability," loosely and commonly used by both courts and litigants alike, is a misnomer. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677. Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant, through his or her own individual actions, violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Id. at 675--78.

Defendants can not be held liable under § 1983 solely because of their supervisory capacity. There is no respondeat superior liability under [§] 1983." Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). "Liability under [§] 1983 arises only upon a showing of personal participation by the defendant. A supervisor is only liable for the constitutional violations of . . . subordinates if the supervisor participated in or directed the violations, or knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them. See Redman v. County of San Diego, 942 F.2d 1435, 1446--47 (9th Cir. 1991) (concluding that knowledge of a policy and practice of overcrowding that allegedly resulted in inmate's rape could be sufficient to establish liability.) "A showing that a supervisor acted, or failed to act, in a manner that was deliberately indifferent to an inmate's Eighth Amendment rights is sufficient to demonstrate the involvement-and the liability-of that supervisor." Starr v. Baca, 652 F.2d 1202, 1206--07 (9th Cir. 2011). "[A] plaintiff may state a claim against a supervisor for deliberate indifference based upon the supervisor's knowledge of and acquiescence in unconstitutional conduct by his or her subordinates." Id.

In any amended pleading, Plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to support a finding that each Defendant personally violated, or knowingly directed a violation of, or knew of and failed to act to prevent a violation of, or was deliberately ...

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